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Attention Community Hospitals: Has COVID-19 exposed previously unknown risks to your organization?

By: Dean Dorton | April 14, 2021

COVID-19 has taught us a lot, especially in the healthcare industry. During the past several months many of our clients are changing the way they operate due to unknown risks that have presented themselves during the pandemic. This article gives three examples of common risks that if not addressed, could cause harm to your organization.

COVID-19 | Healthcare

During the past several months, we’ve heard directly from clients that COVID-19 has not only changed the operational and financial performance of community hospitals, but the last year has also opened eyes to numerous risks that were previously unknown or thought to be of little importance.

1. “We didn’t know that XYZ person didn’t have a back-up.”
Team member absence due to illness or quarantine quickly exposed the fact that some people or departments were spread too thin and/or didn’t have trained reliable back-up processes and staffing in place. Long term absences created backlogs and a lack of documented policies and procedures made it nearly impossible for others to assume the workload. This was true in supply chain, materials management, clinical departments, accounting, and others.

2. “Our technology infrastructure wasn’t prepared to support significant amounts of telecommuting and/or telemedicine.”
Many team members, and in fact entire departments were forced to work remotely for much of the last year, and in some instances continuing to do so. Has your technology team been able to support that shift? Are you comfortable with data security measures and productivity monitoring with increased telecommuting? Has your telehealth strategy been fully optimized? Many departments experienced decreases in productivity which lead to financial impacts and patient dissatisfaction.

3. “Revenue cycle departments have been scrambling to stay afloat and strategic investments and improvements have been delayed.”
In many instances, community hospitals have seen A/R aging worsen, staffing has experienced significant turnover or furlough, and now that volumes are coming back, the team cannot keep up. It is very difficult to stay current while also addressing the backlogs that have developed. Don’t let predictable cash collections and days in A/R mask underlying trends or potential backlogs within the revenue cycle. Outsourced vendors were also impacted by COVID. Evaluate their performance to determine if potential improvement opportunities exist.

If these or any other similar revelations sound familiar to your organization, it may be prudent to conduct an enterprise-wide risk assessment or begin the process of prioritizing risks based on financial, operational, and compliance impact.

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